How a Canadian MIWO with 1 million members and a $40 million annual budget can be formed
WHAT IS THE MINING INDUSTRY WATCHDOG ORGANIZATION (MIWO)?
The Mining Industry Watchdog Organization (MIWO) is a proposed federally-chartered, non-profit organization designed to represent and educate mining products consumers, and hold mining companies accountable.
The MIWO proposal is based upon Citizen Utility Boards (CUBs) which have been established in four states in the U.S. In these states, utilities were required to enclose a one-page pamphlet in their billing envelopes inviting people to join the CUB. About five percent of consumers usually join the CUB at a $10-15 annual membership fee. CUBs are independent, broad-based watchdog groups that are run democratically by their members and represent consumers’ interests in the marketplace. For example, in Illinois the CUB has 150,000 members, a $1.5 million annual budget, and has saved consumers more than $20 billion since 1983 by opposing rate hikes by utilities.
According to a national survey, 64% of Canadians support the creation of the MIWO using the pamphlet method, while only 27% oppose it.
In addition, a national coalition made up of 31 citizen groups with a total membership of 3.5 million Canadians supports the creation of the MIWO.
HOW WILL THE MIWO BE SET UP AND HOW WILL IT WORK?
To set up the MIWO, the Canadian federal and provincial governments must require companies that sell mining industry products (gold and other metal products) to hand out a one-page pamphlet to their individual customers at the cashier stations at each store.
Alternatively, these companies could volunteer to hand out the pamphlet, and as long as enough companies volunteered enough people would receive the pamphlet to make the MIWO viable.
The pamphlet will describe the MIWO and invite individuals to join at an annual membership fee of about $40 (with a lower fee for people with low incomes). The government can either lend or grant to the MIWO the funds needed to print the first pamphlet. After the first pamphlet, however, the MIWO will pay all the costs of the pamphlet. As a result, the MIWO can be set up at little or no cost to government or the companies that sell forestry products.
If only four percent of the 25 million Canadians who buy mining industry products join the MIWO, it will have 1 million members and a $40 million annual budget. With these resources and large membership base, the MIWO will be strong enough to hold mining companies accountable for their activities both in Canada and worldwide.
The federal and provincial governments could (and should) also increase their royalty rate from mining companies, and give the extra amount of money collected to the MIWO.
The MIWO will be a democratic organization, controlled by its members through the election of regional delegates and the MIWO’s board of directors. The board will hire the MIWO’s professional staff and determine the group’s policies.
WHAT WILL THE MIWO DO?
The MIWO will hire economists, experts, organizers, lobbyists and attorneys to represent mining product consumers and hold mining companies accountable.
The MIWO will also educate consumers about mining issues, especially sustainability and waste reduction.
WHY IS THE MIWO NEEDED IN CANADA?
Large mining companies mine metals from land owned by the public in remote areas far away from the eyes of the public. These companies have often mined in ways that are not legal, or failed to keep commitments to restore mined areas in sustainable ways.
Canada’s mining industry exploits valuable Canadian public resources, and also operates in many other countries and so affects Canada’s international reputation — but many times the public has not had a strong voice in government and mining industry decisions about the use and conservation of areas that are mined, and the use of mined products.
The MIWO will act as a broad-based, well-resourced umbrella group, giving mining products consumers an organized voice for their interests and concerns.
For more details, go to Democracy Watch’s Citizen Association Campaign